To be surrounded by blackberry brambles in the dense quiet of late afternoon! As we pick, a cicada’s buzz whirs out into the silence then stops; a few trees off a crow squawks, but no one answers. Then the early fall stillness gathers around us again as we move carefully through the thorny canes.
To avoid the thorns I almost grasp a tall cow parsnip (Hercleum maximum),
but remember in time that though these plants resemble their more benign cousins, Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), their sap contains furanocoumarins (say that with a mouth full of peanut butter!) which can cause blisters or burns on your skin. If the blackberry’s thorns snag and catch you, hold that young poplar instead, and gently pull yourself free.
I steal a berry now and then: gritty with seeds, a slight bitterness beneath the sweet. Sierra grazes below us, her dusty coat an armour against the thorns, her sensitive nose searching for what her eyes can not see, the fat ripe juicy ones. She wanders and nibbles with slow deliberation.
Some vague part of me remembers that blackberries (Rubus fruticosis), the leaves and roots in particular, are medicinal. The berries too of course are loaded with anti oxidants and vitamin C, but the astringent leaves and roots made into a decoction have been indicated for diarrhea, mouth ulcers and many other ailments.
Still, it’s the berries we’re after today. Later, I will thicken the juice with pectin I made from some wild apples, and, with any luck, our blackberry jelly will be velvet soft, and dark as the bright interior of this day’s silence.